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Amendment by local legislator passes
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Georgia voters last week approved an amendment to the state's Constitution that imposes additional fees for reckless driving violations when they are pleaded down from driving under the influence.

The additional funds will be distributed to the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Commission.

State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, in his freshman session as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, was the primary author and sponsor of House Bill 870 and House Resolution 1183 during the past legislative session.

"This has been a good learning experience, not only to pass the legislation but to be a part of the Constitutional Amendment process," he said. "It's been a great honor to be the author of one of the only two Constitutional Amendments on the ballot over the past two years."

The resolution passed overwhelmingly in both houses and then by a margin of nearly 70 percent on the Nov. 4 statewide ballot.

"I was pleased with the outcome of the vote and pleased that the amendment passed," Tanner said. "I'm looking forward to seeing the results as the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Commission will be able to assist many more deserving individuals."

Tanner said initial conversations that led to the passage began when he was made aware of the number of DUI charges that had in recent years been pleaded down to reckless driving convictions.

"This was a way to deter prosecutors from pleading down so many. The root of the issue is that reckless driving is also causing these injuries," he said.

Funding from surcharges for DUI convictions is down about 25 percent from 41,000 in 2008 to 29,000 in 2013, according to Craig Young, spokesman for the commission.

"The commission receives no tax dollars and its only funding currently comes from a DUI conviction surcharge," he said.

Since 2002, the commission has approved more than $20 million dollars in grants to Georgians with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries for their post-acute care and rehabilitation.

For his work on the resolution, Tanner, in September, was presented with the commission's 2014 Pathfinder Award. He was also named legislator of the year by the Brain Injury Association of Georgia.

"Representative Tanner's leadership on this important funding bill would help the commission continue to meet the needs of Georgians with these catastrophic injuries," Young said.

"The commission is very appreciative of the energy and vision Rep. Tanner provided to help meet both the current and future needs of families as they aspire to lives of independence in their communities."